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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Is It Time for a Colonoscopy?

Most folks will agree that everyone should incorporate annual medical exams and wellness programs into their lives.  Have you, however, checked on your colon grammar health lately, or is it time for a writer's checkup? 

Here are the major rules for using a colon if you need a colonoscopy to refresh your skills.

1.  Use a colon to mean "note what follows."

     A.  Use a colon before a list of items, especially after expressions like as follows and the following.  


The application for employment at the manufacturing plant asked the following questions:  How old are you?  Have you ever worked in a manufacturing plant before?  What other jobs have you held?

We assembled the following items for our garage salelamps, books, records, toys, sheets and towels, dishes, and patio chairs.

* When a list immediately follows a verb or preposition, do not use a colon.


The emergency kit included safety flares, jumper cables, and a flashlight.

Each student taking the math test was provided with two sharpened pencils, paper, a protractor, and a ruler.

B.  Use a colon before a long, formal statement or quotation.


Patrick Henry concluded his revolutionary speech before the Virginia House of Burgesses with these ringing words Is life so dear, or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?  Forbid it, Almighty God!  I know not what course others may take; but, as for me, give me liberty or give me death!  (Note a formal statement like this need not be enclosed in quotation marks.)

Here are the four main uses of the comma:  (1) to prevent misreading, (2) to separate items in a series, (3) to set off expressions that interrupt the sentence, and (4) to set off introductory phrases and clauses.

* The first word of a formal statement following a colon is generally capitalized; however, in the case of informal statements, the first word often starts with a small letter.

C.  Use a colon between independent clauses when the second clause explains or restates the idea of the first.


Lois felt that she had accomplished something worthwhile:  she had designed and sewn her first garment.

Benjamin Franklin had many talents:  he was an inventor, a writer, a politician, and a philosopher. 

2.  Use a colon in certain conventional situations.

A.  Use a colon between the hour and the minute when you write the time.

EXAMPLE      5:20 P.M.

B.  Use a colon between chapter and verse in referring to passages from the Bible.

EXAMPLE     Proverbs  10:1

C.  Use a colon between volume and the number or between volume and page number of a periodical.

 EXAMPLE     Science Digest 102:3

D.  Use a colon after the salutation of a business letter.

 EXAMPLES     Dear Mrs. Rodriguez:                             Dear Sir:

I hope the colon checkup will provide you with much better health in your writing.